Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The award-winning musical which has been seen by over 110 million people worldwide has returned to Manchester for an incredible 19 week run, taking up residency at the city’s Palace Theatre.
Based on the 1994 Disney animated feature film, The Lion King has been wowing audiences on Broadway for 25 years while also running continually in the West End since 1999; so it feels like a real treat to have this record-breaking show visit us here in the North West.
Telling the story of Simba who is tricked into thinking he is responsible for the demise of his father Mufasa , The Lion King opens with a burst of brilliance as the iconic Circle of Life plays out in all its theatrical glory, no spoilers here but this truly is one of the most spectacular openers you’ll ever see as the animals of the Kingdom burst into beautiful, vibrant life, immersing the audience fully as they take their places in the Pridelands.
Julie Taymor’s stunning costume design combined with Richard Hudson’s minimalist scenic design, vibrant lighting from Donald Holder and expressive choreography from Garth Fagan unite impressively to bring the sights and the sounds of Africa’s expansive savanna to the stage. Each scene fills you with wonder, often drawing spontaneous applause from the audience as the sheer magnificence of this production plays out. Julie Taymor and Michael Curry’s puppetry combined with intricate masks are spectacular and lift this production to a whole other level.
This is a true ensemble piece with a cast of over 50 talented performers, each and every one bringing their own piece of Disney magic to the stage. The vibrancy of the group numbers is an absolute joy, visually stunning and a total feast for the eyes, you honestly don’t know where to look, there’s so much happening on stage, every corner of the Palace Theatre feels alive.
Stephenson Ardern-Sodje and Nokwanda Khuzwayo are perfectly cast as Simba and Nala delivering the beloved characters with real heart and depth. Jean-Luc Guizonne is superb as Mufasa, commanding and calm with a gentle ease about him. Matthew Forbes is a wonderfully witty Zazu who gets the audience on side immediately with his strong characterisation and incredible puppetry skills. Another audience favourite is Thandazile Soni who is an absolute delight as Rafiki, Alan McHale and Carl Sanderson bring the laughs as Timon and Pumbaa while Richard Hurst as the brooding villain Scar is fantastic.
The show is jam-packed with much loved musical numbers including Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Hakuna Matata, I Just Can’t Wait to Be King, Be Prepared and of course Circle of Life while stunning additions for the stage include the powerful Shadowland and the stirring, He Lives in You.
The Lion King is an astonishing piece of theatre, adults will be wowed while children will be filled with awe and wonder. Magical memories will be made every night of this run in Manchester as The Lion King roars out until Saturday 11th March.
Tickets for The Lion King can be booked here.